The Latest on Her Battle with Cancer

Yesterday, May 27, we admitted my bride to the hospital. Over the last week her physical distress rose alarmingly fast. Thankfully doctors quickly stabilized things. She is much more comfortable today.


This morning we learned the cause for her symptoms. The spread of disease now  compromises some major organs. The weakness of her condition furthermore prohibits the possibility of any standard of care chemotherapy treatment.

Nan grasps the gravity of the situation. She has fought her fight with the courage of her personal convictions. She has done so without complaint. The joy of the Lord has been her strength and remains so (Neh. 8:10). She does not despair knowing what pleasures await at her Savior’s right hand (Psalm 16:11).

A hospice rep will meet with us tomorrow. Joel, our son, arrives tonight. He plans to join us for that appointment with the nurse. As soon as arrangements can be made, likely no more than a day or two, we will move Nancy to the comfort of our home.

Words cannot convey my unique privilege to serve both as Nan’s husband and pastor. We talked and wept together over the news earlier today. I reminded her (and myself) that God regards as “precious”–the Hebrew means significant, weighty, no small thing in His sight–the death of His saints (Psalm 116:15). Her times are in His hands. He will walk with her through the valley of the shadow; she fears no evil (Psalm 23:4).

Lately I’ve spent a fair amount of time meditating on Phil. 4:11-13. Paul writes from prison:

11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

This turn of events brings me low–lower than my own cancer, a broken jaw, even the loss of our beloved Joshua, or any other hard providence we have faced. My schooling in the secret of contentment faces its biggest challenge. Though I expect the degree of difficulty to grow exponentially in the days ahead, I hope to bank everything on the massive promise of v. 13–I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Please pray for Nan’s comfort and care during this time. I want to love and serve her well at every turn. She’s pretty weak. I’m not certain at what point, if at all, she will desire visitors. We will just have to see how she does once we get her home. Many thanks.

Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing (2 Cor. 6:10), we press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14).

Another Personal Update

More Health News from the House of Heff

Many of our OGC folks and others probably wonder how our busy medical Monday went this week. Here’s the latest:

HealthCare News,Newspaper with white background

First, on my front, Monday proved a total washout. Somehow the wrong test got ordered. Back to the drawing board with my PCP. In other words, still waiting on that swallow study I need.

Now, on Nancy’s front, some significant progress. She underwent an outpatient procedure to remove two liters plus of fluid from her body–ostensibly not that uncommon with ovarian cancer.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT WE FINALLY GOT THE BIOPSY RESULTS! Relatively good news. The enlarged node the surgeon took over six weeks ago tested out as the same ovarian cancer as elsewhere in her body, not some other form of the stupid disease.

Unfortunately the node didn’t meet the size specs necessary upon which to grow a culture. So we still don’t know what chemo drug would best target her cancer, should she choose that route of last resort.

Other than a bit tired and sore from lying in the same position for the procedure, she feels much relief after the siphoning off of all that fluid. A sample of the same now gets sent to the company for testing to determine the best drug for her use. We should hear in two or so weeks.

Yeah, sure.

Forgive my cynicism and thanks for those continued prayers!


A dear self-professed atheist friend of mine follows my blog. This both humbles and encourages me. But he did recently complain about the content. “Too much religion. Not enough about you.” Just like my buddy. This post he will like, I think.

Sick Leave

I had to shut down the blog for a couple of weeks recently due to ongoing treatment during my current medical absence. Following jaw surgery six weeks ago my surgeon ordered ten hyperbaric dives to aid in my recovery. They completely wiped me out. Productivity of any kind flew out the window from day one. Fortunately I’ve left those in the rear view mirror. I am actually starting to feel human again.


Before I write anything more about me, let me update on the Queen of the Manor, Miss Nancy. Honestly, we don’t have a great deal to report about her cancer battle. She continues diligent treatment with her latest alternative protocol.

She remains optimistic in every way. She has no pain or symptoms. Still no word on the results of her lymph node pathology. We may wait as many as two more weeks for those. Sigh.

Needless to say we pray a lot through this journey. Thanks to so many of you who join us in petitioning the Father in Jesus’ name for her complete healing.


Now back to the less interesting part of this post. How do you like my new look? Yep, allow me to introduce you up close and personal to “robojaw.” This most recent scan shows my titanium implant.

Note the span. It runs from the socket by my ear all the way past the midline point of my chin. Just above the “chain” shows my remaining live bone in the mandible. Noticeable by their absence? All my teeth in that quadrant. Needless to say the left side does all the chewing work these days. I’m wondering if my dental hygienist will discount me 25% now at teeth cleaning time.

I still have some swelling. My surgeon, whom I saw recently in Miami, refers to these weeks as “the accommodation” phase of my healing. But everything looks good. I can eat anything I find tolerable. Some speech and swallowing therapy lies ahead as soon as we can arrange it, but things overall improve daily.


Thankfully, this week I’ve returned to the office for a good part of each day. Prime time pulpit work will have to wait a bit longer, but writing and administration–no problem. Seems I can manage the occasional appointment as well. Sure beats breathing 100% O2 at a simulated 45 feet below sea level in a claustrophobic chamber.

Our elders huddle up in a couple of weeks. At that meeting I expect we will discuss my progress and what steps might lie ahead for a more complete pastoral reentry. In the meantime, I praise God for His kindness in sustaining me through this marathon journey. Go ahead and say it “L.” “There you go again with that religious talk.”

I just can’t help myself.



NancyA natural-friendly MD Nan now sees in Lakeland advised from the get-go that she have a full-body PET scan. I remember them well from my own cancer journey back in ’05. This will give us a baseline from which we can determine how things progress over the course of treatment.

She had the scan this past Tuesday. Her OB/GYN called us in to review the findings just this very morning. I wish I could post a more encouraging report. The results showed that my beloved lost ground over the last few months. The disease definitely has spread. Nan asked me to divulge no greater specifics than these given the sensitive nature of anyone’s health history.

What does this mean now that we’ve got a clearer picture of her condition? Beyond one move for certain, we don’t know just yet what the Lord would have her do. I respect my wife for the patient processor that she is. She will definitely talk with the Lakeland doctor today for his input. The additional move for certain involves her getting a medical oncologist on the team. Her OB/GYN enthusiastically consented to my suggestion that she refer Nan to the medical oncologist who cared for me way back when. The personal relationship we have with Dr. G will serve things well in terms of helping Nan weigh her options. Once a direction comes into focus I will post further updates as necessary.

How are we doing? Good question. I think Nancy is sorting that out for herself; I feel a bit numb at this point. Of course we continue to covet the prayers of God’s people for His purposes to carry the day at every turn on this roller coaster ride. The emotions ride higher than usual in January as it brings each year another anniversary of our son’s death back in 2014. These latest developments challenge the emotions all the more. Through it all I keep asking the Lord to anchor us in a Job-like grip on reality. Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return (Job 1:21a). Mike Mason captured it well:

Job knew one of the great secrets of faith: the believer in God has no worldly rights. The true believer is someone who has abdicated all rights, freely accepting the status of a slave and no longer laying claim to any earthly chattel, whether it be “houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields” (Matt. 19:29). These are precisely the sort of things that Job has just lost, and yet his initial response to their loss is not bitter complaint, nor even mere acquiescence, but adoration (The Gospel According to Job, Crossway, 37).

Blessed be the name of the Lord.


Ten Years Cancer Free & Still Learning


This month marks a decade since I finished treatment for head and neck cancer. By God’s grace I remain cancer free. I have remarked to others more times than I can recount a single thought: “Cancer is a terribly effective tutor.” Here are several lessons I learned through the healing journey and continue to learn as the Lord kindly gives me length of days.

  • One, the actual moment of a believer’s death is a terribly significant matter in the heart of God (Psalm 116:15).
  • Two, illness is a form of suffering which God uses to train us in holiness (Psalm 119:71).
  • Three, God’s grace is sufficient to sustain even when healing is delayed or doesn’t come at all (2 Cor. 12:9).
  • Four, one’s capacity to comfort others in their affliction increases significantly to the degree one has experienced comfort from God in something similar (2 Cor. 1:3-5).
  • Five, dying is gain for the believer, but remaining alive to serve others is better for them in God’s providence (Phil. 1:21-26).
  • Six, God sees the tears and hears the prayers of His people when they cry out to Him (2 Kings 20:5).
  • Seven, joy doesn’t depend on circumstances but rather on the filling of the Spirit which focuses on giving thanks in all things (1 Thess. 5:16-18).
  • Eight, true worth comes from who we are in Christ, not what we can or cannot do for Him (2 Cor. 5:17).
  • Nine, prosperity and adversity both come from God and require different responses in faith (Ecc. 7:14).
  • And, ten, life is a vapor, faster than a weaver’s shuttle, requiring one to live every moment’s anticipation of the future governed by a careful “if the Lord wills” (James 4:13-15; Job 7:6).

These lessons and more I have learned and continue to learn as I live one more day cancer free to the praise of His glorious grace.

A Cancer Reality Check

I Married Up

Yesterday Nancy and I spent the morning at the hospital. She was scheduled to have her chemo ports removed.

Early on in what normally is a fairly routine, simple procedure, the doctor discovered that the catheter of the port placed in her abdomen had gotten dislodged somehow. That meant he had to scramble to put some new equipment together so he could go laproscopic for its retrieval. That meant general vs. local anesthetic as well. No big deal except . . .

The doctor asked to see me following the procedure. While scoping for the catheter, he took a quick look around the region. He discovered visible signs of cancer on her diaphragm and at least one other place. He didn’t look everywhere, so we don’t know as of yet how pervasive a threat exists. That was not the purpose of the procedure and he was already overtime for getting to his other cases. He took pictures and even showed them to me. So apparently my previous post regarding her progress was premature.

But I was puzzled. We had acted positively of late based upon the last two blood tests checking her CA-125 levels, which proved to be well in range. I asked him about that. He used the word “meaningless” to describe that test’s significance at this point in the recurrence process. Imagine my shock. Neither Nancy or I ever got that memo. She had started to back off on aspects of her natural protocol thinking she was out of the woods. She is not. He took biopsies in several places to confirm the diagnosis, but I could read it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. He has no doubt. Cancer has grown from microscopic to visible in her body in the last eight months.

Where does that leave us? Nancy has resumed an all-in campaign for morning, noon, and night therapy of the natural kind to battle her cancer. I’m afraid that means she will not be returning anytime soon to a more mainstream pastor’s wife life or to her part-time work out of the house with her supplement customers. Her full-time job for now remains to get well.

We are investigating additional natural methods which have come to our attention. As always, we covet your prayers for healing and the grace to fight the good fight with the joy of the Lord as our strength.

Take That Ovarian Cancer


It gives me great pleasure to rep0rt that Nancy’s latest blood test (she gets them quarterly now), came back with a CA-125 reading of 19. Above 35 is considered out of range. She remains well within acceptable results to give us confidence that healing from this stupid disease continues. She sees the doctor this week for his take on things. Thanks to all who continue to pray for us as we walk this path of faith. God is good. All the time.

Latest Update on Nancy’s Healing Journey


Thanks to everyone who continues to pray for my bride as she works her healing regimen in the aftermath of ovarian cancer surgery four months ago. She had her second post-op visit yesterday with the doctor. She continues to heal quite nicely in terms of that procedure. For this we are certainly grateful.

Her physician had, in our estimation, surprisingly little to say about her CA-125 numbers from the blood test in March which showed a significant drop from 268 to 18 (34 or lower is within range). He prescribed another of those tests for three months from now at which time she will see him again to monitor her progress. He advised her that she should have these tests every three months for the next two years, her highest risk time period for recurrence.

Frankly, that’s all there is to report. But we praise God for His faithfulness in answering so many prayers for her recovery. She feels and looks great. Everything she ingests is organic, sugar-free, healthy as can be and its shows.

I joke with folks all the time that I am the only thing toxic in her life!


Dietrich BonhoefferNew Year’s Day, 2015. Time to reflect back in hopes of moving forward.
2014 started miserably with death in January. Grief took up an unwelcome residence in our household. Lesson learned? The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21).
The year peaked sweetly with blessing in July. Twin grand kids. It doesn’t get much better. Lesson learned? There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2). 
We crash dived hard with sickness in December. Cancer again. But this time attacking the queen. Lesson learned? Being learned? Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:4).
Why must it be so hard? How does one press on into another year when the first Friday will bring another doctor’s visit and the prospect of more bad news?
Turn everlastingly Godward.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer did. Imprisoned in Nazi Germany for opposing Hitler’s Third Reich, he wrote his famous treatise, Letters from PrisonIt proved a great comfort to me time and again when I read it during my cancer journey in 2005. A friend of mine recently sent me a copy of Bonhoeffer’s Morning Prayer (see below). The German pastor read it to his fellow prisoners that Christmas morning in 1943. My friend wrote a note with it expressing his hope it would strengthen me and Nancy in, as he put it, “this latest chapter in your life.”
It did. It does. Thanks, Mike.
May it do the same for you, dear reader, whatever 2015 brings to your household.
Christmas, 1943
God, to you I call early in the morning.
Help me pray
And gather my thoughts to yourself
I cannot do it alone.
In me it is dark,
But with you is the light;
I am lonely, but you forsake me not;
I am faint-hearted, but with you is help;
I am restless, but with you is peace;
In me is bitterness, but with you is patience;
I do not understand my way, but
You know the way for me.
Father in Heaven,
Praise and thanks
Be yours for the night’s rest.
Praise and thanks be your for the new day.
Praise and thanks be yours for all your kindness
And faithfulness in my past life.
You have shown me much good,
Let me now receive from your hand
What is hard (emphasis mine).
You will not lay upon me
More than I can bear.
For your children you let all things
Serve for the best.
Lord Jesus Christ,
You were poor
And miserable, captive and forsaken as I am.
You know every need of humans,
You remain with me
When no man stands by me,
You forget me not and seek me,
You will that I recognize you
And turn to you.
Lord, I hear your call and follow,
Help me!
Holy Spirit,
Give me the faith that rescues me from
Despair, addictions, and vice,
Give me the love for God and humans,
That destroys all hate and bitterness,
Give me the hope that frees me from
Fear and despondency.
Holy, merciful God,
My Creator and my Savior,
My Judge and my Deliverer,
You know me and everything I do.
You hate and punish evil in this world
And in the next with no respect of persons;
You forgive sins for the one
Who asks sincerely;
You love good and reward it on this
Earth with a good conscience
And in the world to come
With the crown of righteousness.
Before you I think of all my loved ones,
And of my fellow prisoners, and of all those
Who do their hard service in this house.
Lord, have mercy!
Grant me freedom again,
And let me so live in the present
That I can live responsibly
Before humans.
Lord, whatever else this day brings—
May your name be praised!